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Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program

ABOUT MUHR

The Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program provides funding to eligible entities to report and identify missing persons and unidentified human remains across the United States. The program aims to enhance the reporting, transportation, forensic testing, and identification of missing persons and unidentified human remains, including migrants. The MUHR Program, administered for the first time in fiscal year 2022 by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, furthers the U.S. Department of Justice’s mission by increasing public safety by providing resources to locate and identify missing persons and unidentified human remains in the United States, and complements the National Institute of Justice National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) Program.

 

To learn more about the MUHR Program and potential funding opportunities, please visit Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program.

Passed by Congress in 1999, Jennifer’s Law authorized the Attorney General to issue grants to state and local jurisdictions to increase their capacity to report missing and unidentified persons. Jennifer’s Law is named after Jennifer Marie Wilmer, a 21-year-old woman who went missing in California in 1993 and has not been found. Jennifer’s family, along with Congressional Representatives, enacted Jennifer’s Law to ease the suffering of families dealing with a missing loved one in the hopes that grant funding would allow more information about missing persons and unidentified human remains to be entered into databases. Under Jennifer’s Law, MUHR Program grantees are required to report unidentified human remains into databases such as NamUs, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP).

In the United States, over 600,000 individuals go missing every year, while more than 40,000 bodies recovered in the United States remain unidentified at any given time¹. In addition, an estimated 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year by ME/C offices, and approximately 1,000 of those recovered bodies remain unidentified after one year². Furthermore, there is a backlog of missing and unidentified human remains cases that are waiting to undergo forensic testing and be entered into national databases. Funding from the MUHR Program not only helps jurisdictions to become more self-reliant and self-sufficient in reducing their backlog, but also enables them to become more efficient in identifying and repatriating individuals to their loved ones.

 

[1] Between 2007 and 2020, an average of 664,776 missing persons records were entered annually into the National Crime Information Center. See https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/ncic.

[2] In 2004, the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Census of Medical Examiner and Coroners’ Offices estimated that each year medical examiner and coroner offices handle about 4,400 unidentified bodies, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year. See https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/meco04.pdf.

Key Performance Metrics

Since its inception in 2022, MUHR Program funds were used to:

  • Make 24 identifications via Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) associations
  • Make 13 identifications via direct DNA comparisons
  • Make 21 identifications via other methodologies such as fingerprints
  • Repatriate 39 cases to relatives or next of kin

GRANTEES

This map is representative of all MUHR Program awards made since its inception in 2022.

If you are interested in viewing more award data, please visit the OJP Award Data webpage.

LIST OF GRANTEES
GRANTEE NAMESTATEFISCAL YEARPURPOSE AREA
COUNTY OF COCONINOAZ20232 (COUNTIES AND/OR UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
PINAL COUNTYAZ20232 (COUNTIES AND/OR UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETYAZ20231 (STATEWIDE AGENCIES)
COUNTY OF RIVERSIDECA20222 (COUNTIES AND/OR UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENTFL20221 (STATEWIDE AGENCIES)
COUNTY OF MIAMI-DADEFL20222 (COUNTIES AND/OR UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
COUNTY OF PALM BEACHFL20232 (COUNTIES AND/OR UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDAFL20231 (STATEWIDE AGENCIES)
COUNTY OF DEKALBGA20222 (COUNTIES AND/OR UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICEKY20231 (STATEWIDE AGENCIES)
NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETYNC20231 (STATEWIDE AGENCIES)
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF LAW & PUBLIC SAFETYNJ20231 (STATEWIDE AGENCIES)
UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICONM20231 (STATEWIDE AGENCIES)
NEW YORK CITY OFFICE OF THE CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINERNY20232 (COUNTIES AND/OR UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
CITY OF PHILADELPHIAPA20232 (COUNTIES AND/OR UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
TARRANT COUNTYTX20232 (COUNTIES AND/OR UNITS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT)
TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITYTX20221 (STATEWIDE AGENCIES)
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AT FORT WORTHTX20223 (SERVICES TO ASSIST SMALL, RURAL, AND/OR TRIBAL ENTITIES)
VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTHVA20231 (STATEWIDE AGENCIES)

RESOURCES

Publications

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The National Institute of Justice’s Report to Congress: Needs Assessment of Forensic Laboratories and Medical Examiner/Coroner Offices

In conducting this needs assessment, the Department identified the importance of strengthening these types of efforts through the increased use and institutionalization of systems-based approaches. Further, this needs assessment compiles demonstrative evidence of how the field adapts to advancements in technology, changes in the volume and types of forensic evidence...

Strengthening the Medicolegal-Death-Investigation System: Improving Data Systems

The National Science and Technology Council’s Fast-Track Action Committee on Strengthening the Medicolegal-Death-Investigation System (FTAC-SMDIS) was chartered in July 2015 to make strategic policy recommendations at the Federal level on how to address issues related to accessing and working with data generated by ME/C offices. The recommendations outlined in this...

Needs Assessment of Forensic Laboratories and Medical Examiner/Coroner Offices

The Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016 (JFARA) mandated a needs assessment of forensic laboratories, which included an examination of workload, backlog,1 personnel, and equipment needs for both public crime laboratories and medical examiner and coroner (ME/C) offices. In conducting this needs assessment, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)...
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Multi-Media

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Overview of Migrant Casework and Challenges​ at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner

This webinar featured a brief background on the history of the United States - Mexico border, the creation of migrant policies and enforcement, the increase of migrants deaths and the challenges associated with identification, the importance of partnerships and available resources, and actual case studies from one of America’s busiest...

FY2023 Grantee Orientation Webinar – Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program

This webinar features the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) providing an overview of the Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program to its FY2023 grantees. During the webinar, BJA highlights key personnel, updates to the program for FY2023, specifics on program performance measures, and relevant grant requirements. Additionally, grantees are...

What is the Missing Migrant Program?

The Missing Migrant Program (MMP) seeks to prevent the loss of life amongst the migrant population traversing through the southern border in accordance with the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2019. (Description taken directly from US Customs and Border Protection website) Continue reading…...
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Protocols

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DOJ Interim Policy Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching

The purpose of this interim policy is to promote the reasoned exercise of investigative, scientific, and prosecutorial discretion in cases that involve forensic genetic genealogical DNA analysis and searching (‘FGGS’). (Description taken directly from the policy document) Continue reading…...
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Research

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Research coming soon.
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HIGHLIGHTS AND EVENTS

BJA Forensics Programs FY23 Grantees

Congratulations and welcome to all BJA Forensics Programs FY23 grantees! Continue reading…...

Texas State University’s Operation Identification uses MUHR funding to assist rural jurisdictions with unidentified human remains cases

Operation Identification (OpID) within the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University started ten years ago with the aim of locating, exhuming, and working towards identification for long-term unidentified human remains (UHRs) in South Texas. These UHRs represent border crossing deaths that had no DNA samples in CODIS, and little...

DeKalb DA announces break in 30-year-old homicide case, Rebecca Burke identified

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office has been awarded a three-year Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program grant in the amount of $500,000 to identify the remains of 27 individuals found in DeKalb County. The DeKalb County Cold Case Task Force will use these funds to catalog, report, test...
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Upcoming Events

2nd Annual BJA Forensics Programs Grantees Meeting

On behalf of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Forensics Training and Technical Assistance (Forensics TTA) Team, led by RTI International, is hosting the 2nd Annual BJA Forensics Programs Grantees Meeting, on June 10-11, 2024! Continue reading…...
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Past Events

1st Annual BJA Forensics Programs Grantees Meeting

On behalf of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Forensics Training and Technical Assistance (Forensics TTA) Team, led by RTI International, is hosting the 1st Annual BJA Forensics Programs Grantees Meeting, scheduled for October 2-3, 2023! Continue reading…...
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